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Barcelona may rival Arsenal for Júlio César’s signature

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On Monday, we talked through the logic behind Arsenal’s pursuit of Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper Júlio César, whose  wages north of $100,000 per week mean he’ll move from the Championship club for a minimal free. What we didn’t discuss was whether César would want to move to Arsenal. We just assumed the move would be a good one for the Confederations Cup Golden Gloves winner, but what if another, more prestigious club were in for César? Maybe his Arsenal move wouldn’t be so obvious after all.

Whether Barcelona are really in for César, as reported, probably depends on other moves. For most of the calendar year, the Catalans been linked with Borussia Moenchenglabach’s Marc-André Ter Stegen, though the 21-year-old would a long-term move at a much greater cost. That move may also require coming to some kind of decision as to what to do with Victor Valdes in 2013-14, the incumbent goalkeeper entering the final year of his contract.

Then there’s Pepe Reina, the Liverpool goalkeeper who has seen Simon Mignolet arrive at Anfield from Sunderland. The former Barcelona product has been perpetually linked with a move back home. If both he and César were available, who would Barcelona choose? It seems Reina is far more likely to be the choice.

The playing time issue also doesn’t exactly add up in a César move to Barcelona, either. If Barça went out and got a Ter Stegen, they’re implicitly saying they’ve found their goalkeeper of the future, a find that might see them let Valdes go and concede that future is now. Reina and César, however, because of their ages, aren’t necessarily long-term moves, though you never know with goalkeepers. Whether they’d replace Valdes or provide insurance against his departure (now or next year) is less certain.

That would be a problem for César who, on the back of his Confederations Cup performance, is looking for consistent first team opportunities to consolidate his position as Luiz Felipe Scolari’s number one. As long as Valdes is on the books at Barcelona, a move to the Nou Camp presents too much of a risk. And even if Valdes moves on before César arrives, Ter Stegen lurks.

If it were a straight up choice between Barcelona and Arsenal, César might be inclined to join Dani Alves and Neymar in Cataluyna. But ahead of 2014, playing time will be paramount. And César is more likely to see playing time in North London.

Defoe walks out Bradley Lowery, scores in England win

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Jermain Defoe’s friendship with terminally-ill Bradley Lowery has been special to watch unfold, and the Sunderland striker brought his little buddy to Wembley today.

Then he notched a match-winner.

Lowery walked Defoe out onto the field in a replica England kit before Sunday’s World Cup qualifier against Lithuania, and then Defoe scored his 20th goal for country.

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It was his first since 2013, the last year Defoe was called up for the Three Lions.

Here’s the goal, which was followed by a second-half Jamie Vardy tally as England stayed atop Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

Two Russian soccer fans stabbed in Serbia

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) Two Russian fans have been hospitalized with serious injuries after being stabbed following a friendly soccer match between Red Star Belgrade and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Serbian Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said Sunday police were looking for the knife-wielding perpetrators who attacked a group of Lokomotiv fans in downtown Belgrade late Saturday.

Serbian media reports said the Russian fans were attacked by supporters of Red Star’s rival Partizan Belgrade.

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The match, which Red Star won 2-1, was meant to promote Serbia’s traditional friendship with Russia.

Stefanovic says “nobody should think they could hurt the Serbian-Russian friendship” with such attacks.

Serbia has seen a surge of fan violence inside and outside stadiums. In 2009, a French football fan was fatally beaten in Belgrade.

VIDEO: Gerrard’s juggle and finish leads Liverpool legends past Real Madrid

AP Photo/Rui Vieira
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Scoring at Anfield doesn’t get old, especially when your name is Steven Gerrard.

The English midfielder was playing in a friendly match between Liverpool and Real Madrid “legends” on Sunday, when he delivered this tasty goal (and assists to Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, and John Aldridge).

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Gerrard redirects a cross over a lunging defender and into a place where he can lash a goal home to put the Reds up 4-0. He dedicated his Man of the Match performance to club legend Ronnie Moran, who died earlier this week.

Real’s comeback came up just short in a 4-3 final, with Fernando Morientes, Ruben de la Red, and Edwin Congo scoring for the visitors.

On a Sunday waiting for the international matches to begin, Gerrard supplies a nice highlight for the rest of us (Extended highlights free on Liverpool’s site).

Ozil bristles at talk of Arsenal selling him

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Mesut Ozil is on international break, and bristling at reports that Arsenal is going to sell him.

The midfielder’s absence from the lineup last week had plenty speculating on his future, even more than usual. His contract expires in 2018, and several reports claimed he’d join Alexis Sanchez as players destined for elsewhere.

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Ozil was not called up by Germany, and has missed four of his last nine Premier League matches. Three of those were for illness, and he missed last week’s loss to West Brom with a hamstring injury.

From Metro:

“And you think Wenger tells the journalist before he tells me? Then I know him differently,” Ozil told German outlet Welt.

“I have a contract until 2018 in London and I feel very comfortable there. We’ll talk soon and then make a decision.”

Metro notes that Ozil also said he wants to win the Champions League, something that can only happen with Arsenal remaining in the Top Four. We suppose you could make snarky inferences from his “comfortable in London” phrasing, but we’ll leave it there.